Today we take a look at the Noontec Rio in-ear headphones and having previously reviewed the Noontec Zoro wireless headphones and giving them a big thumbs up I was excited to review the Rio earphones. On paper the Rio offers high quality sound in an attractive package and I’m keen to see what they can do.
In ear headphones are more popular than ever, in fact it is safe to say that personal audio is more popular than ever with the market saturated by mobile audio devices such as Tablets, portable gaming devices, mobiles, mp3 players and more. So it can really be important to have some person headphones that are not only great in terms of performance, but also comfortable and of course affordable.
So without further delay, lets get right to the good stuff and see what the Rio have to offer.
High quality packaging seems to be the norm for Noontec. The Rio comes with a small zip up hard case to store the earphones and spare tips in, you can also get any jack adapters or Bluetooth dongles in there too as there is enough room. The blurb on the inside cover promotes high end audio clarity and the window on the box teases you with what’s on offer.
The fold open front cover has magnets to stop it flying open, attention to detail in the packaging is high, it’s not just looks in this regard. You also get additional ear tips in each size.
We are given plenty of room inside the pouch but ultimately all that storage space comes at a cost. putting this case in your pocket will create bulk and is best suited to a bag to transport around in. A soft pouch may have been a nicer pocket friendly option.
A Closer Look
We see some good quality materials being used on these earphones from the earpiece to the flat ribbon cable. The carry case is soft padded but tough enough to withstand drops and bangs. The only let down here is that the ear tips provided are very thin and cheap feeling. My initial impression of them was that the sound quality won’t be very good due to lack of adequate isolation around the ear canal. The ear tips are translucent and I found the sizes provided to be too small due to how thin the tips are. you can see that the 3.5mm jack has an additional section on the plug, this is for the in-line microphone so you can take calls.
Take a tip off and you can see the earphone driver is protected by material which stops ear wax and other debris getting in and affecting sound quality. The glossy side parts of each earphone looks like plastic but it is actually metal. It’s really quite deceiving because there is no perceived quality since each earphone is very light and it doesn’t feel like metal until you tap it with your nail There are no ear stays or hangers to be seen with the Rio so if the stock ear tips don’t create a snug fit in your ears then you will have to purchase third party tips that are larger. Out of the 4 pairs of tips provided I could not find a pair that fit well enough when walking and I have average size ears.
On its own the Rio manages to deliver acceptable sound but when you compare it to the competition in this price range I felt they were lacking. Soundstage was something I found to be average on the them, the centrally focused output gave me fatigue after long periods. there was little sense of spaciousness. The bass wasn’t very tight and the mid/treble frequencies lacked enough detail. All of these probably aren’t an issue if these are your first earphones but once you listen to a better model or brand in the same class you realise how much your ears are missing out on with the Rio.
I have had a think about what I’ve said here and asked myself was I expecting too much from an earphone at this price point? I don’t think I have since there are other brands with models at similar prices which offer much nicer sound quality but don’t have the accessories and presentation to match. A case of swings and roundabouts, if you will.
I wanted to make sure that the poor sound wasn’t just my Galaxy Note II being picky with earphones so I plugged the Rio into a NAD stereo amplifier which has an excellent headphone amplifier output and sadly experienced the same results.
The performance testing I put the Rio through was by no means technical but in a real world environment under realistic conditions, I felt they didn’t deliver what I expected and was able to replicate these findings from more than one music source.
Available for around £25, I feel that the Rio is marketed as a much more premium style product given its overall design and marketing, which falls in line with similar offerings from rival brands.
What we come away with here is that given the price and rated specs, the Noontec Rio doesn’t live up to the expectations set. They are however acceptable earphones all the same and deliver a nicer experience than some bundled earphones that ship with smartphones and music players. Yet I think it would be wise to have a listen to others in the same price range to make a judgement for yourself.
Noontec have provided us with an excellent package, but executed it with less than excellent sound quality and there are better sounding, but perhaps not better looking options for around the same price. I understand that audio is a subjective thing since we all hear things differently, but to my ears they didn’t offer the kind of performance that I expected when reading the specification on the box and reading about them on the official website.
- Excellent package and contents
- Quality use of materials on both product and pouch
- Generously sized pouch that can hold more than just the Noontec kit
- Unique tangle free flat cable design
- They are £25
- Poor soundstage, too fatiguing to listen to for any decent amount of time
- Ear tips are too flimsy to be useful at isolating outside noise and providing a decent seal around the ear canal
- Poor mid and high frequencies. Symbol instruments get muffled in the distance
- Bass is not tight, it feels loose and/or woolly
“Great style and a reasonable price tag may be more than enough for many, and they’re a decent upgrade from bundled headphone kits that come with smart devices these days. But if you want more punchy performance, you may want to shop around.”
Thanks to Noontec for providing this review sample.